Beirut Valentine: where martyrdom meets lust

Well its that awkward time of year again. The Lebanese television channels are ablaze with fist thumping speeches by the country’s unelected leaders/ex-warlords on the occasion of February 14. Like any politicized tragedy, the date has been shrouded in the language of martyrdom and vengeance in its  commemoration of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s 2005 assassination on Valentine’s Day.

The magnitude of his killing, which sparked the violent polarization that has plagued this country over last seven years, has been compared to Sept. 11, 2001 or the assassination of John F. Kennedy on the United States. However, unlike either of those two monumental national losses, Hariri’s death has now become a national holiday. It’s also a time when friendly (and paid) crowds gather to hear speeches about democracy from Lebanese lords whose nepotistic, decades-old grip on power is possibly stronger than the worst authoritarian regimes in the region–but I digress.

What’s really awkward about all this is the timing. Despite all the rhetoric, Valentine’s Day means essential revenue generating opportunities for business owners. Flower and teddy bear carts have popped up along the highways, nightclubs are advertising overpriced Valentines’ dinners with ‘special’ performances and shops have stocked their shelves with all the kitsch one can stomach, like this bookstore in a residential Beirut suburb:

It all seems innocent enough. After all, this shop, which banks on schools supplies and notepads is geared largely toward children as this toy section behind this display would suggest:

But upon closer inspection of the shelves, nestled among the stuffed animals, your kids may be in for quite a surprise:

Matching edible candy bra and garter belt:

And complementary pencil holder:

Never mind explaining to the little ones, but if you must, the considerate shop owner has provided literature courtesy of “Super Hot Sex” and “Deux Erotiques” (below) for French readers.

Don’t forget your “Peppermint Nipples” snuggly fitted in the inspiring Rastafarian ashtray, just in case getting high on sugar-coated underwear doesn’t cut it for a romantic evening with your partner.

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